Kenya’s Internet was last month ranked the fastest in africa, with an aver- age speed of 15mbps, at a time when research
shows that faster Internet speeds can save employees as much as one week a year in productivity.
The speed ranking by content delivery firm, akamai, confirms an emerging Internet lead for Kenya that now looks set to create a much broader competitive advantage still: in greater output and faster growth. The advantage comes, pre- dominantly, through time saved per task, found SanDisk, a US storage manufacturing company, in a glob- al survey. “The most common and time consuming delays during work hours were caused by waiting for necessary file uploads and down- loads to complete. Loading files and starting programs was the next most time-consuming task.
“The average computer and lap- top user around the world wastes in a year – just waiting for slow Internet to respond – about one working week,” it reported.
Unreliable internet connections can also have costly repercussions to businesses, with any unplanned downtime immediately cutting busi- ness productivity, and bringing inter- nal and external communications to a halt. In fact, the average email upload and download speed, where emails include only text, stands at 0.5 mbps, meaning even for a coun- try with low internet speed, text emails can be sent without hin- drance. The difference comes where there are attachments and in file transfer, which now takes twice and even three times as long in South africa and Nigeria as it does in Kenya. This can play out in every small business. With Gmail’s 25mb max- imum file upload, for instance, the upload and download of files in Kenya will take approximately 2 seconds at 15mbps speeds. But in South africa, where speeds average 6.6 mbps, the same upload would
take roughly 4 seconds, while for Nigeria, with a 5.2mbps Internet speed, each file would take 5 sec- onds. This becomes increasingly material as the volume of data flows expand, with large businesses, and particularly banks sometimes expe- riencing hours of advantage in a sin- gle day based on their huge volumes of data movement. Banks that have aTm branches throughout the coun- try also need to ensure sufficient Internet speed for transactions by users to be updated in their database real time. Long delays can also lead to security concerns.
Beyond the practicalities in time saved with every file and attachment, expanded access to high Internet speed generates economic growth and job creation by accelerating business development through pro- viding new opportunities for inno- vation, expansion, and e-commerce. There is also more confidence around conducting ecommerce businesses. In 2015, Kenya ranked 81st globally in Internet speeds, according to the akamai State of the Internet report, at which point the ecommerce value stood at only Sh4.3bn . In 2017, Kenya’s position improved to 23rd, with 15mbps, and ecommerce values are now projected to grow far faster in future. The higher speeds also translate into improved confidence in setting up online businesses in a country.
Indeed, research has shown there is a direct correlation between Internet access and economic growth, with World Bank statis- tics showing that a 10 per cent increase in Internet access results in approximately one per cent of extra growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year. But stud- ies have also shown that Internet speeds themselves have a direct eco- nomic impact. a 2012 report, con- ducted jointly by Ericsson, arthur
D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in 33 OECD countries, found that doubling the broadband speed for an economy increases GDP by 0.3 per cent a 0.3 percent GDP growth in the OECD region is equivalent to $126bn, equal to more than one seventh of the average annual OECD growth rate in the last decade. The study also found that additional rises in speeds yielded higher growth still, with a quadrupling of speed delivering an extra 0.6 per cent in GDP.
This cycle of growth plays out in multiple ways, with areas offering fast Internet speeds more likely to attract international businesses that want to expand their operation into a region. Large corporates, in par- ticular, prefer setting up in countries where they are guaranteed sufficient Internet speed.
a case in point is multinational firm, Google. When it was seeking entry into the East africa region, it found it easier to use Kenya as a gateway in the region and also to recruit employees.
“It seemed to be the easiest place to get the talent that we needed,” said Joe mucheru, Google “lead” for sub-Saharan africa on why the technology company first set up in Kenya before spreading to other Sub-Saharan countries.
Talent is a big concern for the mul- tinationals and the existence of a strong mobile technology applica- tions innovation hub that has pro- duced products like m-Pesa and the various Google map based apps is working in Kenya’s favour. High Internet speeds serve to further cement that attraction, by aiding in the ease of doing business.
Faster Internet connectivity also allows for easier communication with the rest of the world, such as through web conferencing, saving further time and costs, facilitating better communication flows, and increasing foreign knowledge and understanding of the local mar- ket. Speeds additionally contrib- ute to participation levels on the Internet, with Kenya also holding the current title for the highest social media penetration in africa, which reached 64 per cent by 2016, according to marketing agency Ogilvy. That compares with social media penetration in Nigeria of 51 per cent and in South africa of 49 per cent.
Faster Internet has coincided with an exponential growth in Kenyans’ social media usage. In 2010, Facebook users in Kenya stood at approximately one million. By 2016, that number had reached 5.5m.
During that six years, Kenya’s speeds have been rising exponen- tially, from 2mps in 2010, accord- ing to the akamai State of the Internet Report, to today’s 15mbps. The result is a clear competitive advantage on infrastructure that is set to aide growth almost univer- sally in Kenya, not just in the coun- try’s emerging Silicon Savannah, but across the length and breadth of the nation.